Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Sadie Thompson: What a Broad

I've got this theory about chicks and broads. Chicks are girls and broads are women. Chicks inspire others to take care of them because they (act like) they can't do it themselves. Broads compel others to attend to them through a moxy that's undeniable. Chicks stand slightly pigeon-toed, a real "don't look at me" stance. Broads strut with pelvis and chest thrust forward, defying anyone not to look at them. Me, I'm a broad and proud, dammit, but this country is currently a nest of chicks, gamines who pretend they're 16 until they're 61 (or older), who apologize for any room they take up and reinforce the misconception that feminine energy by definition takes a backseat to masculine energy. Because here's the thing: Broads don't hate men, contrary to some's fears, but they do exert a power that cannot be quelched by them.

Make no mistake. To hold your own amongst all the old-school smartypants that comprise the Ebertfest regulars, you've got to be a broad even if you're a quiet one. And there were plenty in attendance this year, especially on Saturday.

Take this year's silent film: the recently recovered Sadie Thompson (1928), adapted from the Somerset Maughm novel by director Raoul Walsh, and produced by star Gloria Swanson, who was born for the role of the SF harpie angling for a new life in Pogo-Pogo.

Now, Gloria Swanson was a real broad. All shimmying hips and kohl-rimmed eyes that she knew to flash and roll with great effect, she shone brighter than anyone on any screen she occupied. Whether she sported high couture or Sadie's rags-to-riches-to-rags, she radiated a self-ease that set hearts a-flutter and, occasionally, teeth on edge. I can scarcely tell you anything about the film's plot (broads always suffered comeuppances back in the day; ho hum) but the lady's elbow-digging hijinks and great pantomined comedy will linger for quite a while yet.

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